Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas: Part One

The Christmas season can mess people up. I've seen it happen my whole life. From that minute in mid-November when the first Budweiser Clydesdale trots through the snow on your television screen, emotions run rampant, covering everything from joy and happiness to melancholy and dread. A couple of verses of "Silver Bells" and people are either sipping eggnog or crying their eyes out, and depending on the type of eggnog, doing both simultaneously, wishing desperately for January 2nd to just get the hell here, already.

Stress levels are high, brought on by the unnecessary. At no other point during the calendar year, do we feel we absolutely have to buy something, be somewhere and act a certain way otherwise all hope is lost. (Okay, that's not quite accurate, but it still really isn't what Christmas is all about.)

You can't talk about the down side of the Christmas season without being labelled a Scrooge. But there is a down side, plain and simple. It doesn't work for everyone. There's nothing wrong with that. But there is something wrong with letting a small stretch of time get the best of you. Because then, it will get the best of someone else. And that line of misery will no doubt grow. All for what? A few days in December? A giant ham? A huge party on the last night of the year that most would have no desire to be at the other 364 days of the year?

I have a friend who lost her husband to cancer a little over ten years ago. It took awhile before she was able to live life again, but she does. She is healthy. She has friends. She goes out dancing. She travels. She even has a companion she sees a few times a month.  Yet on December 1st, I see her unhappily decorating the front of her house with a Christmas wreath and garland, in a painfully obligatory manner. Without prompting, she offered this. "I'd much rather shoot myself than have to deal with Christmas music." I would imagine it has something to do with missing her husband. But what I find wrong with this picture is the fact that she probably misses him all year round and still functions, but just hearing "It Came Upon A Midnight Clear" makes the hurt, hurt more.

I have had good holidays and bad. Occasionally, family and friends don't jive. But, many times they do. I don't believe I am offering up anything you haven't heard before. But unfortunately, there is a reason to bring it up every year. I see family members still not speaking to each other. I see friends destroying long time bonds. I see people bustling about because they have to and not because they want to. I am not an innocent party. I have a problem doing what we think we are supposed to do as opposed to what we want to do. But sometimes we haven't the choice. And it feels better taking the high road.

I propose that we all try our best to take the high road. Because in the end, we're all we've got. And most of us are pretty great.

Come January 2nd, the ache of Christmas and "Auld Lang Syne" will have disappeared. New aches will begin, but somehow those everyday nuisances are easier to handle without "Jingle Bell Rock" on repeat. Embrace this time of year. Make the best of it. Call someone and make them feel good. It will make you feel good. Because in the blink of an eye, it will be Christmas all over again and you will feel worse having lost all that time in between, being angry for the wrong reasons.


buzzbabyjesus said...

I make the "Holday Mix", take a family portrait, and mail out a couple dozen as a way to own this season I traditionally have trouble with.

To do this I start listening to Christmas music on headphones in mid November. At first it's really painful.

William Repsher said...

I'm not taking any road, high or low. Having lost both my parents in December, Mom the first week of two years ago, Dad back in the mid-00's, you better believe this time of year takes on a different significance. I always enjoyed Christmas. Still do. I like the rampant materialism, the crazy baby Jesus story, the pristine childhood TV Christmas specials that never seem to grow old. When I take a bus ride back to PA later this week, I'll pull up my Christmas mix and enjoy it, puts me in the right frame of mind, not something I'd listen to. Like the blues, there's a certain time you need to listen to Christmas music, and then it's gone.

Long ago, I learned to distrust the images people present to me. Sometimes they're accurate, but more often than not, they're projections of happiness and fulfillment, what people want to be as opposed to what they really are. And that's not a bad thing. I suspect the songs of Van Morrison or Ray Davies are who they really want to be as opposed to who they really are. Christmas is much the same, and I judge it accordingly. When you look at it that way, as opposed to an excuse to dive bomb one's self into oblivion for not living up to some childishly ill-perceived standard of "happiness" ... it makes a lot more sense.

And I still think Scrooge got a raw deal!

Anonymous said...

Hello, please remain seated,

You said:
"I propose that we all try our best to take the high road. Because in the end, we're all we've got. And most of us are pretty great."

Agreed. And one of life's great conundrums is how something so simple can be so hard to achieve in real life. But trying is where all the action is.

And, as your blog aspires to provide/discuss the soundtrack to that great conundrum, let me offer this: Cyrus Chestnut playing We Three Kings with a strong baseline and some pleasingly dissonant harmonies. The song is re-worked but always recognizable.


jeff said...

Taking the high road and being nice to our fellow humans, good advice and you can always add the Tom Lehrer line about National Brotherhood Week, "Be grateful that it doesn't last all year."

kevin m said...

Well written life affirming wishes along with conversation about music. Another reason I enjoy this blog. Happy Holidays Sal.

Noam Sane said...

That's a mighty nice piece of writing, Sal. And right on the money.

Happy whatever-yer-into everybody!

hpunch said...

Well put,
Happy Christmas

dogbreath said...

I'm not saying you're right. But you're not wrong. I like this time of year because I can go round shouting "Bah! Humbug!" and scaring children and little fluffy kittens with big eyes alike. But I also like "Jingle Bell Rock" on repeat and that warm, fuzzy feeling I get with friends & family, the giving & receiving of gifts, donating to charities to assuage my conscience, all of that good stuff. It's a delicious dichotomy. A fine thought provoking essay, Mr N, and many thanks for giving us a blog worth much more than a passing glance. Happy Holidays to you and yours. Cheers!

Rob said...

Sage comments, Sal, as they so often are. After a couple of Christmases where I was more inclined to embrace the winter darkness I'm more inclined now just to feel glad that there are still people around that I care for and who give every impression of caring for me too. The only Christmas present I really value these days is the pleasure of their company, which is a rare gift indeed and not to be had from any retail outlet.

Thank you for the pleasure of your company, Sal, and a very merry Christmas to you and indeed to all who gather here.

Stuart M. said...

Beautifully put. Once upon a time we weren't quite where you chaps in the US are / were, but we most certainly are now.